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Marching Bands In Competition

Marching Bands In Competition

It’s been a long while since we had to get up early to go to a marching festival. Heck, it’s been a long while since we actually had to set an alarm! But H is an adjudicator for a marching festival today so we are on the road again.

I had to pay to get in. Gone are the times I could walk in as a chaperone, slipping through the gate, sporting the bands logo. I don’t mind though. Those band parents work hard for money to support their school’s music program.

I’ve forgotten how hot it can be at marching festivals. My memory is clearing. There is no breeze what-so-ever. Of course it can be cold too. I can remember the times we had to have hand warmers in our pockets to keep from freezing and hot coffee and hot chocolate could be purchased at the concession.

The restrooms – or lack of in this case – were disappointing. There were three stalls of which one was not in working order, no ventilation, not even a small window, and no mirror. The latter was not a problem. At this point I didn’t really want to see what I looked like, and any lipstick applied would melt off quickly in this heat. Sharing these facilities with seventeen marching bands and spectators was not pleasant.

Smallest band on the field – 14 members

Largest band on the field – 300+ members

When Amie was in band and Jessie was little I would bring a supply of coloring books, crayons, and pencils to keep her entertained. She was happy as a clam sitting under my legs on those nasty cement bleachers doing artwork and eating popcorn.

Fried Oreo’s must have been the featured sweet of the day because they were constantly plugging them. I don’t know about you, but Oreo’s fried in hot grease does not sound appetizing.

Fried Oreos Not my cup of tea!

After the long hot day, and a two hour drive home, I’ve come to the conclusion that watching marching bands compete is not nearly exciting as when you have one of your own in the ranks…



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You prepare for this milestone all your life, but when the day of retirement finally arrives, you are slammed in the face with the reality of it all. I know this is true because I’ve seen H moping about for the last few weeks as that date which seemed so far away last year is now on top of him.

He sits quietly, gazing off into space with something bigger on his mind. His thoughts, I’m sure, are on what he’s accomplished and the legacy he’s leaving behind. He’s given his love of music to so many over the years through his career of teaching and always hoping they carry it with them the rest of their lives.

There will be no more early morning or late afternoon rehearsals in his preparation for competitions or festivals with students itching to leave and their parents grumbling because he kept them waiting.

Gone are the days of rewriting music and marching shows to cover all parts because of limited instrumentation. Then at the last minute his only trombone player drops out or he suddenly loses his number one percussionist two weeks before the big concert and the process starts all over again.

Everyone  plays a solo in a small band. There’s no one to take up the slack in hard times so he rearranges, deletes, and improvises, then it’s on with the show!   

There will be no more sleepless nights before the big performance worrying about whether he’s pushed hard enough so they will all remember to breathe, tongue, or slur on the right measure, while playing musically because judges insist on it and it’s a big portion of their performance.  Will their tone quality, pitch, and counting be above board? Will they keep good interval and all be together on that ending visual that was added at the last minute?

The days of haggling with students to ‘stay in band because music will take you somewhere if you let it’, will always be in the forefront of his mind because he wanted more for them than they could have every wanted for themselves.

They gave him guff – he threw it right back. He was hard on them. He was hard on himself. He encouraged pride and praised for a job well-done and compensated often because of the small numbers, allowing them occasional time off from after school rehearsals for part-time jobs or for college classes when they were dual enrolled. Even though this threw off his rehearsals without his key players always present, he did what he had to do to recruit, teach, and instill the love of music in them and keep them on board.

I’ve always told him on the night before performances as he paced and fretted, “The ball’s now in their court. You’ve done all you can do.”

He still worried, lost sleep, and probably prayed. They always came through for him and for themselves while shining like stars in the night and grabbing that superior rating they’d all strived for. They made him proud of each and every one.

The middle of June will roll around this year and he will get antsy, as he always does, about the new show, the numbers, and the instrumentation, not taking into account it’s not his baby anymore. He will be at a loss for a while and it will take some time to get in the mindset that he’s handed the reins to another. ‘The Box’ will go in storage or shoved under the bed to be pulled out at a later date for the memories.

The afternoons can now be spent at the beach instead of on the field.  His weekends will be his own, free of marching festivals and competitions. He talks of sitting out a year and then going back into the rat race. I believe he will do just that because of the compassion and love he has for the music programs in schools.

He fears, as we all do, the music programs will fall by the wayside, ending up at the bottom of the pile of electives on next years class schedule.

If he has instilled the love of music and the passion for teaching in just one student, I believe all those years have been worth the dedication, hard work, and effort he poured into it.


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